Torre, Cashman meet with former MVP

NEW YORK -- Jason Giambi could be headed to the minor leagues if he doesn't start hitting.

With Giambi's batting average down to .195, Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman met with Giambi on Tuesday night. During the 30-minute meeting, they asked him whether he thought he would benefit from a minor-league assignment.

"We touched on it," Giambi said.

However, he thinks staying with the major-league team is the best way to regain form. As a veteran player, he cannot be sent to the minors without his consent.

Torre said Giambi could be back in the lineup Friday when the Yankees begin a road trip in Oakland against his former team.

"I'm think I'm going to get my best work up here with Donnie," Giambi said, referring to hitting coach Don Mattingly.

Cashman would not go into details about the meeting, which took place before New York beat Seattle 7-4 for its season-high fourth straight win.

"We hope that by the time we get off the road trip we're going to see a different guy," Torre said.

The 34-year-old Giambi is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and has just four hits in his last 38 at-bats. The 2000 AL MVP, trying to rebound from an offseason filled with controversy over steroids, has just three homers and six RBI. But he does have 18 walks and a .386 on-base percentage.

"I've been scuffling the last two weeks, no doubt about it," Giambi said.

Cashman said Giambi has options left, but players with more than five years of major-league service can't be optioned to the minors without their consent.

Giambi could also be sent to the minors outright if he consents because he would clear waivers -- no team would claim him because of
his $120 million, seven-year contract. If the Yankees send Giambi to the minors outright, they would save $37,470.73 in luxury tax for each day his $17,142,857 average salary isn't included on the payroll of their 40-man roster, which is taxed at 40 percent over the 183-day regular season.

"I think it's unlikely he would consent to that," Cashman said, refusing to say whether a minor-league assignment was discussed.

Giambi, who didn't play Tuesday, was batting .262 through April 19, when he hit his last home run, but has driven in just one run since and has been tentative at the plate. During spring training, Mattingly worked with him to hit the ball more to the opposite field, but Giambi said they now will go back to having him concentrate on pulling the ball to right.

"I'm frustrated for him, and a lot more patient than he is right now watching him going through what he's going through," Torre said. "We've all experienced slumps. I've never been the player he is or he's supposed to be. It just mounts on, so much more pressure and responsibility. It's tough, and I never played in a venue like this. Everything is magnified here. It's just something you'd like to be able to slow down and sort of be able to handle it a little at a time. But you don't have time to do that when you play every day."

Giambi missed much of last year because of a variety of ailments, including a benign tumor, and hit just .208 with 12 homers and 40 RBI. Just before spring training, he all but confirmed a San Francisco Chronicle report that he told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he had used steroids, and there's been an intense focus on him since he reported to the Yankees in February.

New York's plan was to have him concentrate on hitting, and he's made 21 starts at designated hitter and just four at first base.

If he is sent to the minors, Giambi would likely play in the field more often. It sounded as if Torre preferred that option.

"I think he would probably benefit from playing first base," Torre said. "I think that helps you get in better shape, when you play both sides of this thing. Right now, that's where a lot of the work is going to have to come in, the practice stuff. The only problem here is if you practice and practice and practice, and it comes time to play the game, you may have lost a little bit."

Torre is convinced Giambi will regain his productivity.

"You don't drop off the end of the earth here," the manager said. "We watched him take batting practice. He has no trouble reaching the center field seats."

Cashman said Giambi believes he will turn his season around, that he has a "very strong positive belief in himself that he is going to get it going."

"Three or four good games definitely changes the whole perception," Giambi said. "I know I can turn around really fast."